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Home » Science and theology » Chapter 7: “Ethical Proposals and Conclusion” – Part II

Chapter 7: “Ethical Proposals and Conclusion” – Part II


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Should we work to prevent mass extinctions from happening, or at least lessen its rapid acceleration, or should we let it be and let Nature take its course?


We come to the end of the book as we finish off Chapter 7 of Christopher Southgate’s The Groaning of Creation.


Please answer one of the following questions:


  1. On page 124, Southgate advocates for “the possibility of human partnership in this process” of redeeming creation. This is in contrast to Holmes Rolston’s view that “this system does not stand in need of redemption” and that “our interaction with wilderness should be confined to its protection from anthropogenic (human induced) damage.” Do you agree or disagree with Southgate that (a) creation does need fixing and that (b) human beings are to take an active role in this fixing beyond simply humans “doing no harm”? Why or why not?  As an application, do you agree or disagree with Southgate’s example of curing a presumably naturally infected bighorn sheep at Yellowstone if the species was under threat of extinction, per page 126?
  2. Do you agree or disagree with Southgate’s assertion that, that the Cross & Resurrection of Christ is the “hinge of history” that brings about freedom to human beings, and that this gives humanity both the freedom and the responsibility to effect freedom for the rest of creation? That, consequently, in the Christ event, “the phase of evolution in which new possibilities are explored via competition and extinction is coming to an end” (127)?
  3. Do you agree or disagree with Southgate’s proposal on page 125 to cut the rate of natural extinction? Is it humanity’s responsibility to do so, and how high do you think this should be on humanity’s priority list?  Or do you have other ideas in mind to set creation free, besides Southgate’s two proposals of vegetarianism and reducing extinction?  Perhaps help other human beings or creatures selve or practice ethical kenosis? Or grapple with human poverty, human overpopulation, or the way goods are currently distributed (125)?
  4. Given the 1000-fold increase in the rate of anthropogenic extinction compared to that of evolutionary development (125), is it even possible to envision human beings cutting this extinction rate? Isn’t our species really, per section 6.4, a “plague mammal” (99)? Or can we make our rationality useful in protecting creation such that this outweighs our plague–like behavior?  And can you provide examples of human civilizations practicing sustainable living? 
  5. In reference to Southgate’s proposal in Section 7.4 to reduce the extinction rate, can you provide some schema to make the following value judgments?
    1. Would the death of one individual of a non-endangered species be worth the life of one individual of an endangered species? What if it was 10 : 1? What if the non-endangered species was a human being? Can you propose a reasonable way to make these judgments of value?
    2. Are there instances where the extinction of a particular species is actually justified? Perhaps, for example, for pathogenic organisms like the tuberculosis bacterium or the human immunodeficiency virus? What about mosquitoes, supposedly having no beneficial function in nature and act as disease vectors?


We will discuss our responses this coming Sunday.





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